89-Year-Old Philadelphia Man Charged With Nazi War Crimes

Aushwitz front gate

Johann Breyer, 89, had successfully eluded a dark past that allegedly included the extermination of hundreds of thousands of people according to prosecutors.

Breyer, known as “Hans,” was arrested Tuesday and charged with serving as more than just a perimeter guard at the notorious Auschwitz camp where more than one million people — most of them Jews — were killed during World War II. He maintained that he never persecuted anyone reported CNN.

Breyer has been investigated before for war crimes. In 2003, a U.S. court ruled he was not responsible for joining a Nazi unit because he was only 17 years old at the time.

Federal Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice ordered him held without bail, pending an extradition hearing to be held in late August.

The German government alleges that Breyer served in the Nazi “Death’s Head Guard Battalion” from 1943 to 1945 at Auschwitz and another location according to court papers. They have charged Breyer with complicity in the murder of more than 216,000 Jews from Hungary, Germany, and Czechoslovakia who were deported to Auschwitz in southern Poland on 158 trains. The Germans have asked him to be extradited.

Breyer came to the United States in 1951 where he found work as a tool and die maker at a local engineering company in nearby Fort Washington, where he worked for 32 years. He raised three children, retired at 66, and lived a quiet life that did not include even a single traffic ticket, according to the Washington Post.

If successful, Breyer, one of the last living members of the SS Deaths Head Nazi Battalion, will be the oldest person ever to be extradited from the United States to face allegations of Nazi crimes.

Breyer has repeatedly denied any involvement in the deaths of Jews. “Not the slightest idea, never, never, ever,” Breyer told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1992. “All I know is from the television. What was happening at the camps, it never came up at that time.”

He said in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press, “I didn’t kill anybody. I didn’t rape anybody… I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Prosecutors said his mere presence at Auschwitz is enough to justify extradition. “He is charged with aiding and abetting those deaths,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Foulkes told the Inquirer. “Proof doesn’t require him to have personally pulled any levers. His guarding made it possible for those killings to happen.”

As previously reported in The Inquisitr, Germany is determined to find any remaining Nazi war criminals.

Breyer’s mother was born in the United States and he is fighting extradition. “I’m an American citizen, just as if I had been born here,” he told the AP in 2012. “They can’t deport me.”

[Image via thehistoryblog.com]